And Now More About Kevin Na, Your Newest Folk Hero
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour Confidential

Na in the woods, not the Blair Witch Project

I know you’re totally over Kevin Na’s trip in the woods, but the cultural implications are pretty interesting. Just one hole and 16 strokes turned Na nearly into a legend (and rid of his reputation as merely a really, really slow golfer). I mean, it’s not often that someone other than Tiger or John Daly move the needle and receive national coverage — Na was on SportsCenter, featured on the front page of the New York Times and shown on the Jumbotron at an Oakland A’s vs. Detroit Tigers game! Naturally, we discussed the phenomenon over at PGA Tour Confidential.

By the way, sorry for the lack of posts yesterday. I had a rather excruciating journey to Hilton Head and I busted my laptop in the process. Note to self: remember to completely close the cap on a nearly full bottle of soda before putting it in your bag that has your laptop, iPad and every other electronic device you own — it creates quite a mess (not to mention a headache that I now have to deal with). Anyway! If you haven’t seen it already, here’s an excerpt from our roundtable...

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: The story of the week, I’m sure you’ll agree, was Kevin Na carding a PGA Tour-record (for a par 4) 16 in the first round of the Valero Texas Open. (The YouTube video has already been viewed more than 600,000 times.) Was Na’s meltdown a purely random event, or did we witness a genuine Tin Cup moment?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: No, John Daly’s 18 at Bay Hill in 1998 was a Tin Cup moment — you know, brainless bravado. Na simply couldn’t extricate himself from a bad situation.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Not Tin Cup, just golf. The type of hole that can jump up and bite any player, at any level, at any time.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: He was wearing a microphone for Golf Channel. I think that had something to do with how he decided to play it, in every respect.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: As someone responsible for about 10 of those YouTube viewings, I think it was pretty random. Na hit two tee shots into the trees, found one, and I think let pride get in the way of returning to the tee for a third time. The rest is Internet video history.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: That was just a horrible spot. Rocky ground, thick branches everywhere. Most amateurs would have used a trusty foot wedge.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The funny thing was how fast one of the Tour’s slowest players racked up those 16 strokes. You could sense some panic, probably exacerbated by the mic. I have to admit I’ve watched the YouTube video three times. It’s too fun.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: It was out of character for Na, who’s so methodical and slow on the course but just became completely unwound. He rushed, hacked at it and showed terrible judgment. Really weird.

Herre: Speaking of Na, I was somewhat surprised by the amount of coverage his 16 received. Front page of The New York Times, no less. I thought it was interesting that the coverage was positive in that Na showed integrity by not giving up and then counting every stroke. Golf hasn’t been getting a ton of good pub recently, so I found the coverage refreshing even though it brought to mind the old Bobby Jones chestnut about being praised for not robbing a bank.

Gorant: Yeah, SportsCenter was all over it too.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Could’ve been an aluminum cup moment at least. I’m sure Kevin doesn’t want to hear this but, well, it was strangely fun to watch on the highlights. Every golfer has been there. Just not on TV where he or she can’t pick up and say, “Just gimme a 7.”

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: I saw on Twitter that they played Na’s 16 on the Jumbotron at the Oakland A’s-Detroit Tigers game. From the response I’ve seen, it seems rather refreshing for the weekend hack to see a pro endure something they can even relate to — getting lost in the woods while trying to whack a ball out.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Na had a meltdown but he handled himself like a pro afterwards. He didn’t throw his mic off and run to his courtesy car. Like many us he was amused by the whole event and probably not surprised at his rather immature actions. But his caddie was definitely pouting.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: He got more attention for the 16 than anything else he’s done in his career. Hopefully, he can eclipse this cause célèbre with something happier.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I had no idea Kevin Na could play so quickly — or seem so likable.

Wei: Na had a random meltdown. He had nowhere to go after he took that first whack (maybe he should have re-teed again), but he handled himself really well all things considered. I thought it was pure hilarity that he was randomly mic’ed up for the debacle. Can’t believe no f-bombs and a semblance of a tantrum through all 16 strokes. He tried to crack a joke to his caddie, saying, “How are we going to count all those strokes?” But his caddie didn’t bite, unfortunately. Love that Na has become a folk hero and good news is that he’s now known for something other than slow play!

Evans: I think the fact that he’s having a decent year had something also to do with how he handled himself. Na has won over $800,000 this season. It’s easy to keep perspective when you’re not playing for your card.

Van Sickle: Agree with Jim. I, too, would like to praise Bobby Jones for not robbing banks.

I disagree with Farrell. Anyone remember last fall when Na took a chunk out of the 18th tee at the Tour Championship?? His card has never been really been in jeopardy. I think Na’s attitude adjustment has something to do with his father being diagnosed with cancer during the off-season. Every time I’ve run into him this season, he’s been incredibly friendly and approachable, which is completely different from what I’d heard/seen in the past.

I love Van Sickle’s kicker. Totally true. But I’m pretty sure just about everyone would have forgiven Na had he dropped an f-bomb or two. I certainly would have been cursing like a sailor…or a golfer.

Why has Na’s 16 received so much attention? Well, probably because any golfer can relate to getting stuck in the woods and making a mess out of a hole — except most would have picked up by the eighth stroke or employed the foot wedge.